Don't you just hate it when you drive away from your garage and a gnawing question pops into your head: Wait, did I close the garage door?
Fortunately, consumers who are paranoid—or just forgetful—no longer have to worry. Manufacturers increasingly introduce garage-door openers that can be programmed to close automatically or that can be monitored and controlled by your smartphone, so you can close it from any location.
Meanwhile, the arrival of models that have built-in LED fixtures means that you never have to change a light bulb, manufacturers say. Finally, new wall-mount controls add LCD or touch-screen features that alert you to operational problems and prevent the need for fetching a ladder to program remote controls (or remotes) or change system settings.
FORGET ABOUT IT. Four manufacturers now have models that close the garage door automatically. You preset the garage-door opener to close the door from 30 seconds to 99 minutes after it opens. In other words, if you preset the door to close automatically at its fastest setting, you’ll have 30 seconds to back out of the garage, which we found to be an adequate amount of time to enter and settle into a vehicle, fasten a seat belt and back out of the garage.
Chamberlain, Craftsman and Liftmaster introduced so-called timer-to-close features in September 2011, followed by Raynor in January 2013. Marantec was scheduled to introduce the feature on two models in December 2014. Skylink says it will add the feature to one of its garage-door openers in 2015. In all, we found 19 models that incorporate this feature at press time, the least expensive of which is a $208 model from Chamberlain that has a 3/4-hp motor and a chain drive. That model costs $38 more than the company’s other 3/4-hp chain-drive garage-door openers that don’t have a timer-to-close function.
Chamberlain says timer-to-close capability doesn’t add to the price of its garage-door openers, but other features, such as LCD wall-mount controls, contribute to increased costs among openers that have a timer-to-close feature. (In addition to the timer-to-close function, the $208 model includes a keyless entry system and a laser-guided parking-assist feature, which the lower price model lacks.) Craftsman, Liftmaster and Raynor say the same about the added cost, or lack thereof, for the timer-to-close function. Marantec says timer-to-close capability will add about $15 to the price of its garage-door openers. Skylink says the feature will add to the price of its garage-door openers but wouldn’t say by how much.
Models that have timer-to-close capability emit an alarm to alert anyone who might be standing near the door before it closes automatically; however, those models also have the standard safety feature that forces the door to open when sensors detect that a person or object is in the way. Some models allow you to adjust the closing time in seconds, while others include settings that are in 1-, 5- or 10-minute intervals. Settings are accessed and changed through buttons that are on a garage-door opener’s wall-mounted controller. You can shut off the feature or override it temporarily if you want to keep the door open, such as during a garage sale or while you clean the garage.
Genie takes a different approach. In November 2011, the company introduced a remote that, after you press a button on the remote to close the door, flashes a green light and emits short beeps to confirm that the door closed. The remote flashes a red light and emits long beeps when the door doesn’t close, such as when a pet or other object interferes with the garage-door opener’s safety sensors, which can cause the door to reverse and stay open. The $45 Closed Confirm remote is compatible with Genie’s ChainMax, IntelliG, PowerMax, SilentMax and TriloG garage-door openers.
More Garage-Door Openers Get DC Motor
Dave Osso of Genie says the Closed Confirm remote has a 1,000-foot range as long as an open line of sight exists to the garage door, which is twice as far as the company’s other remotes. If you’re within 1,000 feet of the door, you can attempt to close it again, although Osso suggests that you return to the garage to determine what prevented the door from closing in the first place.
WORLDWIDE REMOTE. In the past 4 years, five garage-door-opener manufacturers introduced add-on hardware that allows you to connect a garage-door opener to the Internet, so you can control the opener with a computer, smartphone or tablet computer. Chamberlain, Craftsman, Liftmaster, Linear and Skylink have such hardware, which connects a garage-door opener wirelessly to your home’s Wi-Fi router.
Chamberlain’s HD930EV ($248) and Craftsman’s 3043 ($330) are the only garage-door openers that we found that come with all of the necessary add-on hardware for connecting to the Internet, including the Internet gateway device that wirelessly links the garage-door opener’s wall-mount controller to your router. Other garage-door openers by Chamberlain and sister brand Liftmaster that carry the MyQ label on their packaging, as well as Craftsman brand garage-door openers that bear the AssureLink label, require you to purchase an Internet gateway device separately for about $50. Models that are manufactured after 1998 that don’t bear the MyQ or AssureLink labels aren’t directly compatible with such an Internet gateway device, and, therefore, require a kit that includes a second piece of hardware, which brings the total cost to as much as $131 to connect to the Internet.
For Chamberlain, Craftsman and Liftmaster models that were manufactured before 1998, as well as for any other brand or model of garage-door opener that was manufactured in 1993 or later, you can buy kits for about $130 from Chamberlain, Liftmaster, Linear or Skylink that add Internet connectivity. However, you should be aware that it can be difficult to determine whether a particular kit is compatible with your garage-door opener. For instance, the MyQ Garage kit that’s marketed by Chamberlain and Liftmaster doesn’t list the models with which it works. Instead, the product information that’s on manufacturers’ websites provides general guidelines about which garage-door openers are compatible, such as models that have certain program-button colors. In other words, you’ll have to examine your garage-door opener thoroughly to determine whether such a kit is compatible.
SMART CONTROL. You can buy additional accessories that allow you to connect your garage-door opener to the Internet so you can close the door with your smartphone.
The only thing that’s free about such Internet-connected garage-door openers is the corresponding mobile application, which allows you to check the status of your door, receive alerts when that status changes and open or close the door from anywhere by using your computer, smartphone or tablet. Chamberlain, Craftsman, Liftmaster and Skylink each have apps that are compatible with Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices. Z-Wave apps, which also are free and compatible with both platforms, allow you to control Linear’s garage-door openers.
Chamberlain says it plans to introduce garage-door openers in 2015 that will connect to a wireless router directly, so you won’t have to buy any add-on hardware. However, the prices for such garage-door openers weren’t available at press time. Genie says it plans to introduce garage-door openers in 2015 that have Internet connectivity, but the company provided no details at press time, so it’s unclear whether the connection would be built in or whether additional hardware would have to be purchased.
LIGHTING THE WAY. Marantec introduced the first garage-door openers that have integrated LEDs for overhead lighting in September 2013. Skylink says it will follow suit in the first quarter of 2015, although it provided no other details at press time. Marantec says integrated LEDs add about 5 percent to the price of its garage-door openers, which start at $208.
The primary benefit of using LEDs in garage-door openers compared with incandescent light bulbs or CFLs is that LEDs are designed to last for 25,000–50,000 hours, whereas CFLs last 10,000 hours and incandescent bulbs last as long as 2,500 hours, according to Department of Energy. As a result, we believe that the use of integrated LEDs in a garage-door opener reduces the likelihood that you ever have to change the light source, which requires you to unclip and pull out the LED. For instance, even if you were to use the lighting in your garage-door opener for 8 hours per day, 7 days per week, the worst-case scenario with integrated LEDs is that you’d have to change the fixture once every 10 years and probably never if you used the lighting only when your vehicle enters and exits the garage.
Furthermore, Marantec says its garage-door openers that have integrated LEDs have an advantage over models that allow you to use aftermarket LED bulbs that screw into conventional fixtures, because the company’s integrated LEDs don’t interfere with the radio frequency that your garage-door-opener and remote use to communicate. We believe that that’s important to note, because the use of certain aftermarket LED bulbs and CFLs in your garage-door opener can cause such a malfunction. Five manufacturers that we interviewed acknowledge the potential problem, and some provide a list of light bulbs and fixtures that they say won’t cause interference.
Nadarajah Narendran, who is the director of research for the independent Lighting Research Center, tells Consumers Digest that you should select an LED or CFL bulb that complies with Federal Communications Commission noninterference rules and that such compliance typically is listed on the bulb or its packaging. Another method to avoid interference is to buy an incandescent bulb that’s designated for “rough service,” which is listed on packaging and indicates that the bulb is suitable for garage-door openers.
ON DISPLAY. Manufacturers increasingly introduce wall-mount controllers that have built-in LCD screens, and Genie and Overhead Door models now have a touch screen. However, you won’t confuse such screens with the elaborate interface of a smartphone, because garage-door opener LCD screens show no more than time and temperature, the charge level of a battery backup system or graphical feedback for operational errors, such as blocked or misaligned safety sensors. Nonetheless, LCD screens have basic input/output functions and menus, which allow you, say, to program the remote or adjust timer-to-close settings at the controller. Otherwise, you have to fetch a ladder to reach a garage-door opener’s housing to perform such tasks.
Although Skylink says it introduced the first wall-mount controller LCD screen in 2008, Chamberlain, Craftsman and Liftmaster followed in late 2011, and Overhead Door and Genie did the same in August 2012 and September 2012, respectively. Manufacturers say no price increases are associated with wall-mount screens, but such screens typically are packaged with premium garage-door openers that cost at least $199. LCD screen controllers that are made by Chamberlain, Genie, Liftmaster and Overhead Door also can be purchased separately for at least $70.
The touch screen that’s on Genie and Overhead Door models also displays service reminders and contact information for service providers that are near to you. We believe that that’s a handy touch.
Drew Vass is a regular contributor to Consumers Digest. He has written about home-improvement topics, including home-heating systems, replacement windows, and bathroom and kitchen remodeling.